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MISSION – Team chemistry seems to be the buzzword in the Sharyland Rattlers camp this season that has the squad energized and looking for some vindication after last year’s first-round elimination in the playoffs.

With the 2012 high school football season about to kick off, the Rattlers have been busy improving their team chemistry and correcting the “little mistakes” that did them in last year. 

After racking up a 9-2 overall record in 2011, 7-1 in District 30-5A, Sharyland was ousted from the playoffs in the first round by Laredo United.

“Since our last game ended we came together as a team and we told each other we weren’t going to let our community or our school down like the year before,” said 17-year-old senior returning starting QB Tres Barrera, who played nine games last season. “We’ve stuck to that, we have our ultimate goal and I feel we can reach it.

“Our core group of players has been on the team since our sophomore year. We grew up learning and watching, and our younger guys feed off the older guys,” added Barrera. “We hang out a lot, and not just on the field. We go to dinner and hang out on the weekend. We’re a real tight knit team compared to past years, and that’s something us seniors wanted to build up because team chemistry can take you a long way.”

Sharyland returns eight offensive starters, including Barrera, and seven on defense.

Offensively, Estefan Castillo (HB), César Valdez (RB), Emanuel Barbosa and José Barbosa (OT), Luis García (OG), Marco Avila and Danny Morales (REC) return for 2012. Defensively, Bradley Klein, Angel Ocañas, and Joey Esquivel (LB), Josh Sánchez and J.C. Valadez (CB), Pedro Velásquez and Dakota Crouch (DE) come back to the red-and-white.

“Our chemistry is great,” said 17-year-old junior returning LLB Angel Ocañas. “We have to tune the little mistakes, they did us in last year. It’s a mental game we lost. I don’t know if we just didn’t prepare right, but it did us in at the end. Right now, it’s about taking it one step at time and getting back on top, winning the district championship first and then playoffs, and hopefully the state championship.”

However, the Rattlers will face some new challenges this season, including a coaching change and a revamped District 30-5A that saw the departure of the three McAllen schools and the arrival of four Edinburg teams.

“One of the things we have to change from last year is to win the district championship and see how far we can get in the playoffs,” said Sharyland first-year head coach Ron Adame. “Those are things that we set in the off season that our guys have selected as our goals, and our expectations are always high every year.”

Adame isn’t a stranger to the Rattlers. He has been at Sharyland for 18 years and was a first assistant coach under former head coach Fred Sanchez for four years. He is also one of four first-year head coaches in 30-5A this year along with Edinburg Vela’s Michael Salinas, La Joya’s George Espinoza, and La Joya Juarez-Lincoln’s Tommy García.

Although the Rattlers were the 30-5A runner up last year, their first-round elimination was a disappointment when compared to previous seasons. Sharyland went two games deep in the playoffs in 2009 and 2010, and advanced to the third round in 2008.

The successful playoff runs of previous years is due to the spread offense that was implemented in the 2008 season, and has been a good fit for the team’s personnel over the past four years. Adame doesn’t plan on changing the formula.

“The spread seems to fit our personnel, at least offensively,” Adame explained. “Defensively, we don’t really have much size when you compare it to some of the schools we face, but we have the luxury of having team speed. Our defensive scheme is built around attacking and pressuring offenses. We’ve molded our offensive and defensive schemes to fit the type of kids we have.”

The changes in District 30-5A this season didn’t make coach Adame’s job any easier, as some might think. Edinburg, Edinburg North, Edinburg Economedes, and Edinburg Vela replaced McAllen, McAllen Memorial,and McAllen Rowe in the 30-5A realignment.

“A lot of people have told me that our district isn’t quite as strong as it was before, but I tend to disagree with that,” said Adame. “I see our district being just as tough. The McAllen’s are gone, but the Edinburg’s are in. Traditionally, Edinburg and Edinburg North are powerhouses. The La Joya’s are slowly recovering from that big split into three schools, and Donna is Donna. Those kids are tough over there. We had a real close game last year, real emotional, and I know they are going to be ready to play in our district season.”

Sharyland traveled to Brownsville Hanna last night for their season opener non-district contest. Following an open date next week, the Rattlers host Laredo Alexander Sept. 14 for another non-district game (Football Parent Night). Then they open their District 30-5A season on Sept. 21 at Rattler Stadium against La Joya at 7:30 p.m.

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